The New York Review of Books
Liberating China’s Past: An Interview with Ke Yunlu
March 29th, 2017, 05:17 PM
Ke Yunlu was one of the most popular authors in China in the 1980s and 1990s. Though none of his books have been translated, he is well known in China for his politically prescient novels, including one that is widely seen as having predicted Xi Jinping's rise. He is a sharp critic of the Mao period, and believes that China's traumas can only be resolved through spiritualism.
Mixed-Up Kids
March 29th, 2017, 05:17 PM
In its sheer expansiveness 4 3 2 1, which is more than twice the length of any book that Paul Auster has published, is unlike anything he has written. Yet it is also commodious enough to encompass everything else he has written. Several times Auster writes playfully of the book of life, and 4 3 2 1 is close to a Book of Auster, studded with allusions to previous novels.
The Expendable Translator
March 28th, 2017, 05:17 PM
Two ideas drive the now decades-old campaign to extend royalty payments to translators. The first is practical: introducing a royalty clause into the contract ensures that at least in cases where a translated book makes serious money the translator will get some share of it. The second is conceptual: translation is “intellectual property” and as such should be considered authorship and should receive the same treatment authors receive. There are problems with both of these ideas.
Trump in the Middle East: The New Brutality
March 27th, 2017, 05:17 PM
Trump's growing dependence on a military strategy around the world will reduce US influence with its allies and all major powers. Autocrats around the world will follow the American example and be encouraged to abandon diplomacy and politics and use force to get their way. We will be left with a US that is set on inflaming conflicts rather than ending them, a US that abandons any sense of global responsibility and pays no regard to international agreements.
Robert B. Silvers (1929–2017)
March 24th, 2017, 05:17 PM
“Where do things stand? Have we closed?” Days before his death, on March 20, Robert B. Silvers was doing what he had been doing every day for the past fifty-four years: thinking about, fretting over, and laboring on The New York Review of Books.
A Marvelous Moment for French Writers and Artists
March 23rd, 2017, 05:17 PM
The close friendship, interaction, and parallelism between writers and artists in nineteenth-century France are the subject of Anka Muhlstein’s The Pen and the Brush. Balzac put more painters into his novels than he did writers, constantly name-checking artists and using them as visual shorthand (old men looked like Rembrandts, innocent girls like Raphaels). Zola, as a young novelist, lived much more among painters than writers, and told Degas that when he needed to describe laundresses he had simply copied from the artist’s pictures. Victor Hugo was a fine Gothicky-Romantic artist in his own right, and an innovative one too, mixing onto his palette everything from coffee grounds, blackberry juice, and caramelized onion to spit and soot.
Remembering Bob Silvers
March 21st, 2017, 05:17 PM
Reminiscences of Robert B. Silvers by some of The Review’s writers; more will be added in the coming days.
The CEO Who Went Too Far
March 21st, 2017, 05:17 PM
The people Trump invites into high levels of government fall into two categories: provocateurs and establishmentarians. Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller are provocateurs. The establishmentarians are Trump recruits judged respectable by the Republican establishment (and usually chosen for that reason). They either have experience in government or a history of generous financial contributions to the Republican Party. Andrew Puzder was an establishmentarian in good standing. But he was also, temperamentally, a bit of a provocateur.
A Burning Collection
March 21st, 2017, 05:17 PM
Teju Cole’s essays are brilliantly written—sharp, intelligent—and yield a pleasurable sweetness. His prose, in its variations, is impeccably where he wants it to be. His erudition is put to work humbly. But in encountering these essays, perhaps the most important quality to grasp is Cole’s deep sense of the seriousness of life, which is sustained in different registers throughout. Rotating through his compositions, and sometimes shouldering aside their announced subjects, is an array of thematic problems routinely confounding to the educated secular leftcentric urban readerships of today.
A Well-Ventilated Utopia
March 19th, 2017, 05:17 PM
In a recent exhibition and accompanying catalog, the Berlinische Galerie has brought some of Paul Scheerbart’s most indelible images together with the graphic work of two artists he inspired: the modernist architect Bruno Taut (who built a pineapple-shaped glass dome building in Cologne in Scheerbart’s honor) and the little-known outsider artist Paul Goesch (killed by the Nazis in 1940, in their murderous purge of the mentally disabled), whose miniature and colorful architectural visions owe something to Scheerbart.
Trump: The Scramble
March 18th, 2017, 05:17 PM
Weekly, daily, indeed sometimes hourly, we have trouble believing what we see coming out of the Trump White House. It can be difficult to turn our gaze from the stupefying parade of announcements and events and tweets and leaks—and leaks, and leaks—that show us a White House at once wholly undisciplined while trying to impose an ideological discipline upon the nation’s capital that finds no modern precedent in either party.
Zoo, Jardin des Plantes
March 18th, 2017, 05:17 PM
Bee at the rose’s center, I’m participating in a fad that in a century will seem arcane, barbaric, a small crumpled photograph in a drawer or cloud might contain me, nearly out of frame, in the hands of some ancestor, who’ll see my dress…
Xi Jinping: The Illusion of Greatness
March 17th, 2017, 05:17 PM
Xi Jinping came to power offering a similarly broad range of reforms and pledging to “rejuvenate” China. But his measures have been limited to the classic nationalist-authoritarian-traditionalist playbook. After five years of Xi, his main accomplishments seem to have been to consolidate his power while satisfying people's desire for social change through crackdowns and promoting traditionalism. The problem is that these efforts come at the expense of actual reforms.
How Smart Women Got the Chance
March 17th, 2017, 05:17 PM
Nancy Weiss Malkiel’s “Keep the Damned Women Out”, a painstakingly detailed account of how coeducation came to Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, is an invaluable antidote to the amnesia that has come to envelop the subject. More than that, it is an important work of cultural history. It seems a truism to observe that so profound a change could not have occurred in a vacuum, and Malkiel takes full account of the social and political revolutions that were convulsing the country in the 1960s. But she digs deeper to show how, as the decade neared its end, the leaders of Yale and Princeton realized that the mission these institutions had long assigned themselves of producing the nation’s leaders would soon be unsustainable in the absence of coeducation.
The Mind in the Whirlwind
March 16th, 2017, 05:17 PM
Manzotti: Each body brings into existence a world of relative objects, that are, nevertheless, external physical objects. Not things that emerge from your brain, or representations that well up in there. When the body stops working and dies, that world of experience, your consciousness, which is external to your body, ceases to exist as well. But not, of course, the whirlwind it was selected from. Parks: Essentially, you’re turning everything inside out. The experience I thought was inside is outside.
The Trial of Dylann Roof
March 16th, 2017, 05:17 PM
To the Editors: In “USA v. Dylann Roof,” I described an incident in the courtroom during which the defendant’s mother, Amy Roof, attending the first day of the trial, collapsed and was treated by emergency medical workers. I had placed the episode during the testimony of a witness, Felicia Sanders; whereas it actually occurred after the opening statement of defense lawyer David Bruck.
Steven Weinberg and the Puzzle of Quantum Mechanics
March 16th, 2017, 05:17 PM
To the Editors: My article “The Trouble with Quantum Mechanics” provoked a flood of comments. Some were from nonscientists charmed to learn that physicists can disagree with one another. Here there is only room to outline a few comments from physicists who offered arguments in favor of interpretations of quantum mechanics that would make it unnecessary to modify the theory.
The World of Edward Snowden
March 16th, 2017, 05:17 PM
To the Editors: Thank you for printing my letter and Charlie Savage’s response. In discussing my footnote, he asserts that the June 10, 2013, article by Te-Ping Chen makes no mention as to when Snowden checked in to the Mira. Actually, her article does state that Snowden checked in to the Mira on June 1.
The Assange Distraction
March 15th, 2017, 05:17 PM
Given what the files in the recent WikiLeaks release contain, and given that they’ve landed in the hands of Julian Assange, WikiLeaks's press release might be read more as a threat than an invitation. Julian Assange has not destroyed the source codes that came to him with Vault 7, the algorithms that run these programs, and he has not ruled out releasing them into the wild, where they would be available to any cyber-criminal, state actor, or random hacker. This means that Assange is not just a fugitive as he often calls himself, he is a fugitive who is armed and dangerous.
Why Free Speech Is Not Enough
March 15th, 2017, 05:17 PM
“Civil liberties once were radical.” So begins Laura Weinrib’s important revisionist history of the origins of American civil liberties, provocatively entitled The Taming of Free Speech: America’s Civil Liberties Compromise. In her account, the fight began in the early twentieth century as a radical struggle for workers’ rights and redistributive justice. The central claim was for a “right of agitation,” which its proponents believed predated the Constitution and afforded workers the right to engage in direct collective action to pressure employers for higher wages and better working conditions.
Southern Sublime
March 15th, 2017, 05:17 PM
No one has scrutinized the Caribbean with more devotion, sensitivity, and protectiveness than Derek Walcott, a St. Lucian poet, playwright, and painter who has made its landscape the touchstone of his art. He flew to Montreal in 2014 for Peter Doig’s exhibition “No Foreign Lands,” urged by the French editor Harry Jancovici, who after reading Walcott on Caribbean painting proposed a joint project. It began with the artist steering Walcott through the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, watching from behind his wheelchair as he evaluated each painting, inaugurating the series of exchanges that would become Morning, Paramin.
Raucous, Disorderly Downtown
March 14th, 2017, 05:17 PM
The focus of “Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City, 1952–1965” is not on a type or trend of art-making, but rather an inclusive range of galleries, fourteen of them, formed by artists for themselves in storefronts, lofts and church basements. Most of the artists were young. Some of them would become famous, most not. The exhibit brilliantly captures the fertile tumult of this period.
A Real American Horror Story
March 13th, 2017, 05:17 PM
Jordan Peele’s semi-parodic horror film Get Out is the latest instance of the remarkable and remarkably varied African-American cinema of the past few years. The film articulates the fear that the Obama presidency was smoke and mirrors, a sham and an illusion. While Peele had likely not anticipated our current situation, it would seem that his film has materialized at the very moment that curtain rose and the real America was revealed.
The Headquarters of Neo-Marxism
March 13th, 2017, 05:17 PM
The Frankfurt School regarded workers as paralyzed by conformist tendencies and unable to discern the source of their grievances in the capitalist system. One of its tasks during and after the 1930s was to explain the illusions that drove both the proletariat and the bourgeoisie not just to conformity but also to barbarism and the destruction of European civilization. For the next forty years, the Frankfurt School engaged in criticism of nearly every aspect of capitalist society.
A Great Family Business
March 13th, 2017, 05:17 PM
The first season of The Crown tells a story that has a universal appeal, equally absorbing whether one is among those who are reigned over or merely a curious onlooker. It is essentially the Godfather narrative, with Elizabeth as Michael Corleone.
Mr. Nick Baker Teaches Today—Listen
March 13th, 2017, 05:17 PM
Nicholson Baker’s Substitute reads like a lightly curated, benign surveillance tape, somehow capturing all the downtime, chaos, non sequiturs, and lost-in-the-infosphere weirdness of a modern American schoolroom.
It’s Still a Muslim Ban
March 11th, 2017, 05:17 PM
Trump has issued a replacement executive order, one that his lawyers evidently felt would be easier to defend. Importantly, the new order still shares the central defect of its predecessor: it is a “Muslim ban” in intent and effect. It would be difficult to imagine a stronger case of impermissible religious discrimination than this one. The president has admitted his purpose on multiple occasions.
Turkey: The Return of the Sultan
March 9th, 2017, 05:17 PM
To many Western observers, the phenomenon of President of Turkey Recep Teayyip Erdoğan's increased powers demonstrates a return to the kind of authoritarianism that is common to many countries of the Middle East. It also seems to accord with the increasing turn away from democratic practices in many parts of the world, from Putin’s Russia to Trump’s America. On closer inspection, however, what is happening in Turkey shows distinct traces of an earlier phase of Islamic-minded autocracy in the country’s history.
When Art Meets Power
March 8th, 2017, 05:17 PM
It is impossible and wrong, in this fascinating exhibition on Russian art between 1917-1932, to separate art from politics, utopian propaganda from dystopian tragedy. Aesthetic judgement is inevitably compromised. Some may think it obscene to celebrate this period in Russian art: yet it is surely right to make us confront it, to see the boldness of the art and to try and fathom the mixed motives, the hopes and fears and struggles of the artists involved. Right too, when the headlines are full of Trump and Putin, to remind us of the history.
A Deep American Horror Exposed
March 8th, 2017, 05:17 PM
Joyce Carol Oates is sometimes spoken of as a novelist of sensationalism, her Gothic and morbid tendencies emphasized. In fact, her new book, A Book of American Martyrs, is a deeply political novel, all the more powerful for its many ambiguities.
Under the Spell of James Baldwin
March 7th, 2017, 05:17 PM
James Baldwin said that Martin Luther King Jr., symbol of nonviolence, had done what no black leader had before him, which was “to carry the battle into the individual heart.” But he refused to condemn Malcolm X, King’s supposed violent alternative, because, he said, his bitterness articulated the sufferings of black people. These things could also describe Baldwin himself in his essays on race and US society.
Trump in the China Shop
March 7th, 2017, 05:17 PM
A tilt toward protectionism under the Trump administration would mean that the most important field of US-Chinese cooperation—trade and investment—would turn into an area of rivalry. With both strategic and economic competition mounting, the United States and China would be locked into an increasingly overt struggle for power in the Pacific. If Taiwan becomes the trigger for a sharp downturn in US-Chinese relations, it will in many ways be an avoidable crisis. By contrast, a crisis over North Korea during Trump’s presidency may be unavoidable.
Russia: The Conspiracy Trap
March 6th, 2017, 05:17 PM
The dream fueling the Russia frenzy is that it will eventually create a dark enough cloud of suspicion around Trump that Congress will find the will and the grounds to impeach him. More likely, the Russia allegations will not bring down Trump. Meanwhile, while Russia continues to dominate the front pages, Trump will continue waging war on immigrants, cutting funding for everything that’s not the military, assembling his cabinet of deplorables.
Fierce, She Got Outside the Moment
March 5th, 2017, 05:17 PM
Rachel Cusk has long been one of the finest and most invigorating stylists writing in English, graced with scientific precision, meticulous syntax, and a viperous wit.
Berenice Abbott: Rebels of Paris
March 4th, 2017, 05:17 PM
The photographs in Berenice Abbott’s Paris Portraits 1925-1930 document how international the community of modernists was between the wars, and are evidence of Abbott’s first experiments with lighting, angles, and equipment. The portraits’ sparseness only amplifies the ambition they contain—of both subjects and photographer. One of the pleasures of a great portrait is the unending present exposure it offers us, as if the sitter is just about to reveal something. Abbott’s client list is dizzying.
What He Could Do
March 3rd, 2017, 05:17 PM
Trump uses chaos to shock his opponents into varying crouches of outrage and contempt and then lunges forward amid the tumult wherever he sees an opportunity presenting itself. It is against this reality that we must see the likelihood of a crisis as the vital springboard of a Trump presidency, especially an increasingly shaky, unpopular, and unstable one.
Master of the Unreal
March 3rd, 2017, 05:17 PM
An air of unreality hangs over the astonishing exhibition of seventeenth-century Dutch etcher and painter Hercules Segers. One is grateful for the careful documentation in this cautiously staged exhibition, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, of Segers’s working methods. Examples of needles, metal punches, copper plates, and the rest of the etcher’s difficult trade are on view, along with explanations of the steps required to produce an individual image. Now we have a clearer idea of how Segers cropped and recycled his imagery, and how the accidents sometimes produced by his exacting methods were seemingly welcomed.
A Coalition Condemns the Trump Proposal to Require Noncitizens to Disclose Passwords to Enter the US
March 2nd, 2017, 05:17 PM
We recognize the important role that DHS plays in protecting the United States’ borders and the challenges it faces in keeping the US safe, but demanding passwords or other account credentials without cause will fail to increase the security of US citizens and is a direct assault on fundamental rights. This proposal would enable border officials to invade people’s privacy by examining years of private e-mails, texts, and messages. It would expose travelers and everyone in their social networks, including potentially millions of US citizens, to excessive, unjustified scrutiny.
What Does Handke Demand?
March 2nd, 2017, 05:17 PM
To the Editors: Adam Kirsch’s review of Peter Handke’s The Moravian Night rightfully relates it to Handke’s previous work set in the former Yugoslavia, but Kirsch is so obsessed with reading through that lens that he pays scant attention to other aspects of the novel at hand.
Freud’s Influence
March 2nd, 2017, 05:17 PM
To the Editors: I suppose that with recent political events in the United States it has become possible to believe that a complete fraud and mountebank could achieve worldwide status by manipulating public opinion. However, this is not the case with Sigmund Freud. Anyone who studies twentieth-century history soon realizes that psychoanalysis is one of the few great success stories of the century.
Cocktails in a Cruel Country
March 2nd, 2017, 05:17 PM
Wallace Shawn’s new play, Evening at the Talk House, brings us into an all-too-plausible near future in which vicious beatings (occasionally administered by one’s friends) have become commonplace, a world in which it is understood that committing political murders and selecting targets for long-distance killing are socially useful and practical part-time jobs: relatively effortless and even necessary ways to supplement one’s income.
Is Consciousness an Illusion?
March 1st, 2017, 05:17 PM
For fifty years the philosopher Daniel Dennett has been engaged in a grand project of disenchantment of the human world, using science to free us from what he deems illusions—illusions that are difficult to dislodge because they are so natural. In From Bacteria to Bach and Back, his eighteenth book, Dennett presents a valuable and typically lucid synthesis of his worldview.
US Immigration: Waiting for Chaos
March 1st, 2017, 05:17 PM
Trump’s recent efforts to use blunt executive power to close our borders and prepare the way for deporting large numbers of undocumented immigrants are confronting far-reaching problems. Not only is there opposition from federal judges, the business sector, civil liberties groups, and others; there is also a major roadblock from another quarter: our already broken system of immigration laws and immigration courts.